Tuesday, December 29, 2009

I Wonder if This Will be a Problem?

I renewed my Delaware driver's license today. I was very pleased with the DMV in Dover -- for the most part. There's just one little problem with my new license: the weight listed on the license is about 42 percent of what I actually weigh.

I know I told the clerk my actual weight. I was, after all, admitting to being 10 pounds heavier than the fiction listed on the license I got back in 2005. I even weighed myself this morning so as to be (sorta) accurate.

I'm a little surprised. I don't think anyone looking at me would think it possible that I could weigh 42.55319 percent of what I actually weigh.

I wonder if this could be a problem; me walking around with a license that says I weigh less than my lovely, slender wife. A legal problem, I mean. I'm sure Karen will forgive me.

On the other hand, the picture came out pretty good.

Update (1/1/10): I went back to the DMV yesterday and they were kind enough to change my license to a weight that I then completely made obsolete by eating a huge, delicious, New Year's Eve meal with Karen and friends at Nage.

Monday, December 28, 2009

The Lake Champlain Bridge: 1929 to 2009

They blew up the Lake Champlain Bridge today. The bridge, which ran from Addison, Vermont, to Crown Point, New York, was old and out of shape and judged to be unsafe.

The bridge was opened in 1929.

This bridge has a small part in our family memories of Vermont and the Tyler Place. We used it at least once on a return trip; we used it to visit Fort Ticonderoga one summer.

But recently, engineers determined that the bridge was unsafe. And so it came down on a snowy morning.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Changes for a New Year

I took some flak from family members over the holidays for the slow-down in blog posts over the last few months. I have let my on-line energy be soaked up by twitter and facebook, of late. I've decided to try to bring some of that back here. As part of that, I've started moving to a three-column layout. Things may change a bit over the next few days as I settle-in and settle-on a new look.

Reversing A Trend?

The LA Times has an interesting article about an idea to save the city of Detroit: Investors see farms as way to grow Detroit.

The idea is to take the many acres of abandoned factories and crumbling homes left after the auto industry fell apart in Detroit and reclaim them as productive aglands.
Hantz executives envision a city where green fields and apple orchards flourish next to houses and factories, and forests thrive alongside interstates and highways. The team is still figuring out what will grow where: Tree groves could be planted where the soil is too contaminated to grow food, and empty factory buildings may be converted to house hydroponic fields to raise specialty vegetables, fruit and cooking herbs.
Here in Delaware, especially in the south where I live, we are, of course, going in the opposite direction. Yet we are also starting to see abandoned subdivisions as builders fail and fall away. perhaps, some day, we'll also re-green.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Food for a Rainy, Snowy Day

With Delaware forecast to get a winter storm of biblical proportions (did they have snow in the Bible?), I thought today would be a good day for a crockpot meal. Thus, we have Crockpot Experiment #219.

This morning I started what I hope to be a tasty, hearty dinner. I documented the steps both in the slideshow above and in a series of tweets (#crockpot219).

This one includes potatoes, beef (browned with spices and garlic), peas, sweet corn, condensed french onion soup, and an old beer from the back of the fridge. I'll try to add updates when it is un-crockpotted later this evening.

Update: We ate this at about 6 pm, over bismati rice. I paired it with a recent Yuengling lager. It went over well, though Colleen disapproves of the peas. It had thickened nicely; browning the meat with flour seemed to help. (8:30 p.m.)

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Furthur, On Up The Road

I went up to Asbury Park yesterday to see Furthur, the new band put together by Bob Weir and Phil Lesh, of the Grateful Dead. My golf-buddy Andy came along for the ride. He's not a deadhead, but is not unaware of the music and was open to a new adventure. We had good seats and were well-placed for photography. I had fun with my camera.

The key to this band is the addition of guitarist John Kadlecik, until recently the "Jerry" specialist in the highly-regarded Dark Star Orchestra. Kadlecik plays and sings enough like Jerry Garcia to bring Phil's bass and Bobby's wonderfully complex rhythm guitar into a focus that dead fans will instantly recognize. But he does not come off as a Garcia imitator. That's a good thing.

The setlist is evidence of Kadlecik's influence. I don't think I've ever heard The Golden Road to Unlimited Devotion played live, but it was part of last night's show as was Viola Lee Blues. Both were outstanding.

The sound in the Asbury Park Convention Hall was pretty terrible. It's really just a concrete box and probably better-suited to the pro-wrestling and roller-derby that the beer-selling lady told me are common events there. The sound was muddy and the vocals, particularly Bob Weir's, were hard to pick up. In Bobby's case, I think there was a microphone problem.

The short video below (a bit of Althea) will give you some idea of the sound. Though, in fairness, this was taken with my digital camera.

I bought the insta-CD of the show (soundboard?) and listened to some of it today. The sound on that recording is very good (though the Bobby mic is low). There's a version (audience recording?) on the bt.etree archive of the show (thanks to @nemski for the tip). For deadheads wondering what is possible, post-Jerry, this is worth a listen.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Scrapple Flame Wars of 1872

MetaFilter points to an entry from the New York Times of a few days back that reports on an incident of angry letter-writing in the Times in the late 1800s.

"The Way We Ate: The Great Scrapple Correspondence of 1872" recounts a discussion of scrapple, our regional "delicacy," in the Times' letters. It all started with a note from a transplanted Pennsylvanian, who wrote, in part:
In Pennsylvania there is an article in general use called "scrapple," or "scrappel," which is one of the best substitutes for meat that i know of. On coming to live in New-York I missed it very much, and, as a consequence, it cost us a large amount for mutton-chops, beef-steak, &c. , for breakfast, for which "scrapple" is excellent. My wife then brushed-up her house-keeping and cookery lore, and resolved to make the article herself, which she does to perfection. And the result is, we have a delicious article of diet at a very small cost, which takes the place of meat for the morning meal, and which is, I believe, quite as nutricious, as I know it is more toothsome.
This led to the eventual publication of a recipe for scrapple, which was discussed and debated at some length.

The MetaFilter post points to this as an early example of the sort of behavior that is now known as "flaming" on the internet. It's comforting to note that nastiness, cynicism and brutal satire are nothing new; they are, in fact, a part of our national character.

Monday, November 30, 2009

I Like This

I'd like to express my support here for the 2010 California Marriage Protection Act, which would ban divorce. It's a reaction to Proposition 8, which "protected" marriage from the evils of expanding marriage opportunities.

One of the many things that pisses me off about the opposition to gay marriage is the hypocrisy of the "protect marriage" crowd. This anti-divorce satire is a fine example of "strategic derision."

We Tagged A Tree

we tagged a tree
Originally uploaded by mmahaffie
On Saturday, we made our annual trip to the tree farm to tag a Christmas tree. We broke a long-standing tradition, though, by finding the right tree for all four of us almost instantly. Usually, tree-tagging involves a drawn-out series of suggested trees that, for one reason or another, are not approved by the whole committee.

Not this year, this year, we had only a few candidates, all of which all of us liked. Until we found this one, tagged it, paid for it, and went off for a pleasant lunch.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Such a Busy Week

This week has been Geography Awareness Week and Wednesday was GIS Day. It was a busy week for me, in my role as GIS Coordinator for Delaware.

On Wednesday, I volunteered as part of a large group of GIS professionals working with groups of fifth-grade students attending a geography field day at the Air Mobility Command Museum at Dover Air Force Base.

A real hit was a new event for this year; a Geography Game Show presented by visiting artist Neal Nichols, Jr. He drew a large wall-map of the United States, by hand, used it as a fun teaching tool.

I took lots of photos of the kids, and had time to get some shots of the museum as well.

On Thursday, I spent the day at the University of Delaware for a Geospatial Research Day event in which there was a selection of presentations on research, using GIS and geospatial data, throughout the University. I took notes using twitter and turned those into the word cloud posted here.

I also wrote these events up for the DGDC News blog, which is a new blog I've been writing as a communications tool for the Delaware Geographic Data Committee. Between that and the NSGIC News blog that I try to keep up with for the national GIS coordination group, I've had less energy to write here.

It's been a busy, busy week. But fun. And interesting. And fulfilling.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Why I Like John Mayer, Reason #287

Here's a series of tweets from musician John Mayer, who is on tour just now and playing the Beacon Theater in New York city tonight:
First: Anybody outside the Beacon looking for tickets?
A few moments later: Ask the man in the ascot if he has a smoke.

Then, eventually:
We have a winner of the two tickets. Lest anybody ask some other man in an ascot for a smoke.
That's pretty cool.

And, there's the completely killer version of Crossroads that he does on his new album, Battle Studies, that Karen turned me on to this evening.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

It was a Dark and Stormy Night, Day, Night, Day, Night...

We're just emerging from three days or so of nasty, wet weather. The remnants of Hurricane/Topical Storm Ida arrived Wednesday night and combined with a bit of a nor'easter to kick the crap out of the shoreline for a few days.

Thursday was a mess, with high winds and steady rains. Both lasted well into Thursday night.

That afternoon, we pulled up the web-video from the DelDOT traffic camera looking on the approaches to the Indian River Inlet bridge. You could see waves washing across a flat where a dune used to stand and onto the highway. Route 1 between Bethany and Dewey has been closed since.

By bedtime Thursday, both of our daughters' school had called to say there'd be no school on Friday. It blew and rained for most of Friday as well. This morning, Saturday, the wind was finally gone and the rain had faded to a day-long, gray mist.

This afternoon I took a drive around the bays and back north to check on my parents' beach house in North Bethany. It weathered the storm admirably. The beach was gone, however.

I took a short video to show what the beach looks like now. This is from the beach crossover at Bethany Village. There's about a four foot drop down to the "beach" and the waves are washing up almost to that sand face. At high tide, it looks like they lap against the remains of the dune.

The dune, which was fairly new, worked well and protected the houses as it was designed. The new dunes in Bethany proper also served well. There had been complains about these dunes, that they blocked the view from the boardwalk.

I think folks are now realizing that the fact that there is still a boardwalk is due at least in part to this new dune.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Blast from the Past

My friend Barney Krucoff knocked me back into the past a bit this weekend when he e-mailed me a link to a photo of the two of us back in the mid 1970s. This is from a reunion site for Camp Waredaca, where I was a camper from about the age of 8 through 14, which is I think the age I am here. I'm guessing this is from the summer of 1976.

That's me on the far left, with Barney in the middle. On the far right is Mark Binder, now a writer and storyteller in Rhode Island. I remember Mark more as a friend from high school than as a summer camp friend. We're still connected via Facebook and got together for Dogfish beers this summer in Rehoboth.

Barney Krucoff is now the GIS Coordinator for the District of Columbia. He is a member of the Board of Directors of the National States Geographic Information Council (NSGIC) which is where we got to know each other as adults. We'd already made the Waredaca connection. He tells me that one of his kids found this while Googling the family name.

The Waredaca reunion site led me to a Shutterfly set of Waredaca pictures in which I spent at least an hour this morning, wading through the past.

There were no other pictures of me, but there were shots of kids I half-remember from my childhood. There was the pond we swam in, the cabins and tents we lived in, and the morning flag-raising ceremony that started the camp day.

I spotted guys I vaguely remembered hanging out with, and girls on whom I'm certain I had crushes.

And that one cowboy-ish counselor who used to always say, "We've got it to do, so let's do it, to it."

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Delaware in the Lead Again

I was pleased to hear Delaware's Elections Commissioner, Elaine Manlove, on NPR's all Things Considered this evening. She was part of a story on efforts to improve voter registration, nation-wide.

In Delaware, a new system suggests one possible way forward. At the Delaware Department of Motor Vehicles, the system registers voters almost automatically when residents apply for new driver's licenses or update their old ones.

NPR describes Delaware's approach as "pretty much on the cutting edge." Ms. Manlove, who is a very nice lady, by the way, is recorded trying out the system.
"And it's done — it's on its way to elections," Manlove says. "And then the elections office in Sussex is getting this as we speak, and they can process it."
That's pretty cool. Of course, it does depend on people being in the DMV to register. Meanwhile, the DMV folks are doing a better job of making it possible to not be at the DMV every year. Which is nice.

The NPR story goes on to talk about proposals that the government take more of an initiative in registering voters instead of depending on voters to register themselves.

That may generate some opposition from those who distrust government automatically. But at least people are thinking about improving the system. It's a start.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Urban Planning, Parks and Their Impacts on Planned and Un-Planned Pedestrian Peregrination

I try to walk, when I can, for exercise and as a way to get out and photograph things. I live in one of the most beautiful, historic, small towns on the east coast -- Lewes -- and work in one of the more picturesque, historic, state capitols -- Dover. Both are in Delaware, for those of you in other places.

A challenge I have, though, is familiarity. In nearly five years as a photo-hobbyist, I have walked and photographed almost all of Lewes (586 photos, so far) and Dover (737 photos). Those totals, by the way, are only those I deemed worthy of uploading to flickr.

So I am happy to report that a change in Lewes' layout has helped me change the way I look at, and photograph, the town. Lewes has recently completed and opened the Canalfront Park, the redevelopment of a rusty boatyard and adjacent state boat launching ramp into a very nice park.

This has given me new things to photograph. And it has changed the way I walk through town.

It used to be the case that when I walked into town I would walk down Second Street (our main commercial street) from Savannah Road towards the Historic Society Complex to the northwest. And so I came upon, and often photographed, St. Peter's church from its northeast corner, as at left.

Now, however, I find that I walk up to the Canal, first, wind my way through the park, and circle around to walk back up Second Street from Historic Society Complex. So I now approach, and photograph, the church from the northwest, as at right.

Of course, I could have, and probably should have, made the change on my own. But we are creatures of habit. It took a change in urban planning to nudge me just slightly off course.

It has given me a whole new perspective.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

This Makes Perfect Sense to Me

My old college dining hall is slated to become a faux Hogwarts dining hall tomorrow night and that reminds me of why I loved that place when I was there a quarter century ago.

It has a high goofiness quotient.

I am a 1984 graduate of Colby College and for much of my time there I ate my meals in the dining room at Foss Hall. That's Foss at right in a photo by a gent who blogs as Critical Christian and was on-campus at some point recently for his spouse's Class of 1956 reunion.

The Foss dining hall is a longish, two-story room that feels like a church hall or a manorial hall. It is entered by two stairways from the dormitory portion of the building and has deep, rich wooden walls. It would serve well as a small Hogwarts hall.

The young lady whose "inside Colby" blog post alerted me to this re-purposing of Foss also seemed delighted:

There are times when I think I couldn't possibly love Colby any more than I already do. And then they announce that Foss Dining Hall will be transformed this Thursday into the Hogwarts Great Hall, complete with Harry Potter-appropriate dining hall options, and my heart wants to implode with delight and wonder at this marvelous, oh-so-dorky school I attend.

It has me thinking back to my time at Colby and pleasant meals with Mark, Todd, Katie, Laurellie, and many others. I remember the parent's week-end when we deployed the silly cigarettes-and-ashes jello-mold (seemed funny at the time). I remember nights studying down there and week-ends when I played in various bands on that little stage.

And I remember elaborately staged, crowd-heavy stair-falls during finals. That was a tradition unique to Foss. I wonder of it is still practiced?

Monday, October 26, 2009

She Got Bigger

Polly has been with us for a full year now. She joined our menagerie on this weekend last year after turning up in the parking lot of the Sussex Dance Academy during a Nutcracker rehearsal.

At the time, she was a petite, underfed kitten. We think she must have been on her own for at least a few days, because she came in eating and kept eating until she was up to her fighting weight.

And Polly is a pleasantly goofy cat. When she first arrived she had a fascination for the television, particularly football games. She treats us as if we were her pets. As she walks past us, sometimes, she'll reach over with a cold, wet nose and give a friendly little nudge as if to say, "hey there, fella."

Also, she likes the sink.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

A (Typically) Busy Weekend

We started our weekend Friday night at the Sussex Tech vs Smyrna High football game. It was the final home game of the season, and therefore Colleen's last game as a fan at Tech. Tech has a very strong team this season, so we wanted to see a game. They won.

We also wanted to see Tech's marching band. Matt Wilshire, long a classmate of Colleen's, is one of the drum majors. He is good at it and the band sounded good.

We were distracted, though, by the band teacher's running commentary over the PA system during the halftime show. He tried to hype it up, but just sounded silly and drowned out parts of the performance.

Saturday morning, I took a nice walk around town. It was a blustery, overcast sort of morning that turned into a stormy afternoon and evening.

The girls, meanwhile, were in a long rehearsal for the Nutcracker (performances the first week-end in December). Karen ran some errands and then did some shopping with Christina, who had a birthday party (costumed for Halloween) that evening.

Karen and I had a fine dinner date at the new Lewes-area Bethany Blues restaurant.

This morning, the girls performed with the Sussex Dance Academy at the Rehoboth Beach bandstand as part of the annual Sea Witch Festival. They did a great job.

After, as is our tradition for Sea Witch, we had a late lunch at Nicola Pizza with Andy and Lynn and their girls and with another of the dancers, her dad, and his folks.

The extra dancer and Dad were Hannah and Joe Powers. Joe teaches physics at Tech and is an interesting guy. I always forget, though, that he is also the brother of new Castle County Councilman Bill Powers. And their Mom is a retired educator who is also politically active. We had an interesting conversation -- lots of fun.

It was a busy sort of weekend.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Sussex County Politics Vignette #25

Former State Elections Commissioner and newspaper columnist Frank Calio has a new blog. Frank is from western Sussex County and is a long-time spectator of Sussex County's unique politics.

In a post from earlier in the week, he offers a classic moment from this week's Sussex County Council meeting. The Council was discussing a proposal, by Council President Vance Phillips (R), to cut funding to the three libraries that make up the county's Library system. The libraries would still get some state funds and most have local support as well.
During the debate Councilman Sam Wilson, (R) said he had never been inside a library which prompted a reply from Republican Councilman George Cole who said, “I kinda thought that Sam, but I never thought you would admit it.”
This will give you some idea of why I like George Cole so much. He is a straight-shooter sort. I don't agree with him much politically, but I like him and I enjoy talking with him about issues.

About Sam Wilson... all I can say is that I am not surprised.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Twenty-First Golf Game of 2009

This post is a week late; I have spent much of the last week not blogging.

Last week, I had a chance to play 18 holes with two friends out in Cleveland. We were all there for the annual NSGIC conference. We managed to get out one afternoon and were nearly the last group to get around the course.

We played at Sleepy Hollow Golf Course which is part of Cleveland Metroparks. Those folks do a great job; the course is in great shape and was great fun. It is about 90 years old and is a classic hill course. Each nine holes start at the top of the hill and go down and then back up.

It was not a day for me to break 100. I'm not at all used to a hilly course. I had some pretty poor holes, particularly on the front nine. I got better on the back nine and managed a pair of pars. I finished at 115. Not great.

Sandy played solidly; we play together fairly often and he is a good player. He ended at 100.

Our third was Michael, from the Boston area. He's a very good player, with a monster drive. His score -- 84 -- shows his skills. And he is a fellow Deadhead, so we enjoyed a pleasant afternoon of golf and reminisces about Dead shows.

We also talked GIS and geospatial data coordination, so it was like a continuation of the day's conference sessions.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

I Went Back to Ohio...

...or, more specifically, to Cleveland. I had been there some 12 years back for a conference of the Census State Data Center network.

This time (from last Sunday through Thursday) I was there for the annual conference of the National States Geographic Information Council (NSGIC). This is the national GIS coordination group that I am part of and for which, until this past week, I served on the Board of Directors. My second term ended with this conference and I chose to step aside and let some younger folks join the leadership; I'm still chair of the communications committee, so I'll keep a hand in things.

We had a lively conference with many and varied presentations and discussions on topics ranging from governance of public data to the new social media tools that are starting (finally) to be used by state and federal agencies. We tried some experimentation with twitter as part of the conference, encouraging attendees (and some who followed along from home) to continue discussions on-line using the hash-tag "#nsgic2009."

I was traveling on a federal grant, rather than state funds, and I chose to drive out to Cleveland to save money and be able to bring others from Delaware along. It gave us a chance to visit the "Point of Beginning," on the Pennsylvania/Ohio border west of Pittsburgh. There is a monument that commemorates the starting point for the Public Lands survey System which was used from Ohio west to lay out the rectangular township and range subdivisions of the "new" lands in the United States.

This is where state shapes started trending towards the square.

While at the conference, I was not able to get out much. NSGIC packs as much into these events as possible. We met from eight in the morning until past nine many evenings. We were never bored, but we were pretty tired-out.

I did have a chance to visit the rock and Roll Hall of Fame, though. We had our off-site social there one evening and it was great fun. There are others among the GIS group who share with me a love of both punk rock and the Grateful Dead, so we made small pilgrimages together to different parts of the museum. The Hall features a Bruce Springsteen collection just now.; that also brought me back to my childhood.

And we found just a sliver of time for golf. But of that, more later.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

At the Craft Fair

Karen and I went downtown today to wander around the annual Craft Fair hosted by the Lewes Historical Society.

The day started out overcast and wet, but the rain held off enough for us to have a pleasant walk into town.

The Craft Fair was scattered around the Historical Society grounds in a variety of tents and pavilions. There were painters and jewelry-makers and weavers and glass artists and metal-workers and everything in between.

The bluegrass band Bitter Creek were there. They have a very tight, very pleasant sound. They added a nice touch to the day.

And they were an inspiration to at least one other artist.

I was pleased to see the glass artist Justin Cavagnaro was there. I have admired his work for a while, particularly his glass-headed golf putters, one of which I photographed in 2007 at the Bethany Beach Boardwalk Arts Festival.

It was a great way to spend a morning, and we both came away with ideas for Christmas gifts that we'll have to follow-up on at a later, more discreet, date.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Things Military

There's been a fair amount of military activity around life lately. There was a "welcome home" ceremony outside my office this afternoon for the 261st Signal Brigade. This is the Delaware National Guard unit that includes our State's Attorney General Beau Biden, son of Vice President Joe Biden.

There was a "send off" ceremony for the 361st almost exactly a year ago. In that case, VP candidate Joe Biden spoke. Today he was back as the sitting Vice President. In both cases, that meant a strong Secret Service presence and security details. Things were a bit more intense this time around.

Meanwhile, last week, my parents hosted my father's cousin Mary Frances and elements of her family for a few days for the burial, at Arlington National Cemetery, of her husband. He was John Dunn, a retired colonel who served, to great distinction, in World War II and in Korea.

Colonel Dunn was a remarkable man, and a great hero. His memory is sacred to the many soldiers who survived a Korean prisoner of war camp thanks in part to his leadership.

His burial was suitably impressive; I'm sorry I was not able to go. My brother John, who was there, summed it up well in a tweet he posted afterwards:
Full honors military service at Arlington today: horse-drawn caisson, band, bugler, 3-volley salute, honor guard, flag ceremony, plus mass
Karen and I had dinner with my folks last night. They regaled us with the story of the Arlington ceremony and the honors to Colonel Dunn. I was thinking about that as I watched the welcome home for the Delaware National Guard troops today.

Friday, September 25, 2009

New Blog!

I released a new blog into the world today. It is meant to serve as a communications tool for the Delaware Geographic Data Committee -- the DGDC -- which is a part of my set of responsibilities for the state of Delaware.

I already maintain a standard web site for the DGDC. The new blog gives me a chance to create an on-going conversation and regular news updates. I have also created a new twitter stream for DGDC; it is called DelawareGIS.

Both were created under a new social media policy (PDF) approved by the Delaware Department of Technology and Information. (Full disclosure: I sat on the committee that helped draft the policy)

The policy allows us, with approval from agency leadership, of course, to use some of the new tools known generally as "social media" to increase our communications among state agencies, with county and local government and other partners, and with the public.

I'm an information-pusher. Putting information out is what I enjoy.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

I Thought She Looked Familiar

I've been watching the show Swords on the Discovery Channel. It's a documentary series about swordfishing boats and their crews working on the Grand Banks, in the Atlantic.

One of the Captains, Linda Greenlaw, has looked very familiar to me, but I could not figure out why.

Now I know.

My Alumni newsletter from Colby College in came in by e-mail today. The Out of the Blue newsletter for September 2009 includes a brief note that explained it to me:
Linda Greenlaw '83, author of The Hungry Ocean: A Swordboat Captain's Journey and five other books, is one of the captains on a new Discovery Channel series called Swords: Life on the Line, about swordfishing boats around New England.
She's an old school mate. I'm class of '84, so it's likely that I met this woman somewhere on campus a bit more than a quarter-century ago.

I had thought that she seemed familiar because of her New England accent. I had noted to myself that she reminded me of my college days and the sort of folks I new when I lived in Maine.

Turns out that I was right.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

A Barn in the Spotlight

This old barn, at the intersection of Clay Road and kings Highway, outside of Lewes, Delaware, has been much in focus lately. It is on a tract of land that is proposed to be turned into a regional shopping center.

This proposal is strongly opposed by most people in the Lewes area. It's an unpopular place for a shopping center and, I think, a bad idea from an economics standpoint -- we don't need more shopping and this could threaten existing retail outlets.

As a result of all the concern, I think, I've noticed a strong increase in people stopping along the road to take its picture.

Now, I note, local painter Kim Klabe is talking about making it the subject of one of her canvases:
...just in case the developers win and the barn gets torn down. Saw it from a different angle the other morning and had one of those AAAAAhhhhhh, look at that...moments.
It's a pretty barn. I'd like to see what Kim does with it.

When the development plan for that property first came forward, the developers talked about saving the barn and turning it into a restaurant. I thought that was a good idea. They've since backed away from that idea.

That's a shame.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Here's Good News

John Mayer is finishing work on a new album. I've been following him on twitter for some time and reading about the process of recording an album. This evening he wrote that, while he can't share the first single yet, he can share the cover art.

This means we should be hearing new music from Mayer soon. Karen and I are fans and I am not embarrassed to say I'm looking forward to it.

Each new record from this guy has brought something different. He started as a poppy, acoustic troubadour. He took a detour down the blues alley and became a Clapton-style guitar ace.

He has successfully mixed those personas in the past and I expect to hear another new direction with this record.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

They Got Me Again

I got rather a surprise when I went out to my car at lunchtime today. When I turned it on and started to drive, the song that came on my radio was exactly the same as that that had been playing when I'd parked there in the morning. And it started in right at the point where it had cut-off earlier.

It was the song Black-Throated Wind, performed by the Grateful Dead. It was part of a run of songs from a show (I think in 1977?) featured today on the Today In Grateful Dead History show on Sirius Radio's The Dead channel.

I had tuned in around 7:30 this morning (after listening to news for most of my commute). I came in during the jam between China Cat Sunflower and I Know You Rider (China/Rider to aficionados). The final song in the run was Black Throated Wind, but I had to cut it off during a second time through the chorus:
The black-throated wind keeps on pouring in.
And it speaks of a life that passes like dew.
It's forced me to see that you've done better by me,
Better by me than I've done by you.
That must have been at about 7:36 a.m. As it happened, I came back out just at 11:36 and turned the car on at exactly the same spot in the song. It freaked me out for a moment until I remembered that This Day in Grateful Dead History runs at 7 and 11 in the morning, and at 7 in the evening.

So I got to listen to the rest of the tune, including one of my favorite lines:
You ain't gonna learn what you don't want to know.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Twentieth Golf Game of 2009

I wanted to get back out to the golf course this weekend to redeem myself for my poor play last weekend. I did get out. Andy and I played at Old Landing this morning. And I did score better, but only marginally.

I could make excuses. The course was very wet. There were still puddles in the wooded areas. And on many fairways, and even some tee boxes, you could still see where there had been flooding from the debris left behind.

But really it was my poor play that let me down again. I had a few good holes and hit the ball well sometimes. but not enough and not consistently. I scored a 108.

Andy played well. He finished with a 97.

We walked the course, and carried our bags, which is good exercise, I think. We had a nice time.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

I Think There's Still Hope For Bipartisanship

Karen and I walked into town this morning to vote in the special election to fill a state representative seat vacated when Joe Booth won an earlier special election to replace a state senator who passed away. Maybe I need to make a diagram?

At the polls, we found our local state senator, Republican Gary Simpson (Booth's new seat is west of us), and Tim Willard, who I think is a leader in the Democratic Party, chatting together. That's Gary on the left and Tim on the right.

It was nice to chat with them and it was a good opportunity to register a complaint.

We've had plenty of attention from the political parties leading up to this. It was a short, but intense campaign. I took in one of the two candidate debates that were held. And we've been getting multiple robo calls for a while now. From both sides and from a few outside groups as well. We are, frankly, tired of getting calls.

Both gentlemen accepted the complaint with good grace. In fact, they said we were not the only ones to complain.

But chatting with them also reminded me of one of the things I like about where we live. There are still, among the leadership of the Democrats and Republicans, kind and friendly people who work well together, even as rivals.

To be sure, there are also jerks and blowhards, but they tend to be on the fringes. When you get one on one with folks, it's still generally nice.

This is why Gary still gets my vote, most of the time. And it is one of the reasons why I voted (and I think Karen did as well), for Rob Robinson in this special election. Rob's mom is a Republican. In fact she was a former candidate for Congress for the Republicans But they are of what I think of as the Neither-Right-Wing-Nor-Left-Wing branch of Delaware politics. They are interested in public service.

I think that's a good thing and I hope we can keep it alive through the dark times we're seeing lately.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Twenty-One Years of Happiness

Karen and I celebrate our 21st anniversary today. On this date, in 1988, I was kneeling next to this lovely woman in front of an alter at Holy Resurrection Orthodox Church in Potomac, Maryland. I was wearing a crown and trying to follow a very serious marriage ceremony, some of which was celebrated in another language. All I know is that, when it was over, I felt pretty damn married.

It must have worked. Twenty-one years later and I am just as married -- and just as happy, if not more so.

Ever since our marriage, and maybe even more so since the birth of our daughters, I find I am a great softy. News of weddings and births chokes me up. During the brief periods of openness recently when large groups of gay and lesbian couples were marrying, and the marriages were all over the news, I was a mess. Those weddings made me terribly happy. They added even more depth and joy to our marriage.

Our recent trip to Hawaii was, in part, a celebration of last year's 20th anniversary. We'd been talking about doing something big and special for that anniversary, but the planning worked out to put the trip into this past summer. I had talked, during our honeymoon, about celebrating 10 or 20 years by repeating that honeymoon, (with any kids we might have), but it was a hot-air ballooning trip to Switzerland and that just hasn't been practical (or particularly affordable). Yet.

So here we are, 21 years into marriage. Sometimes I complain that, after 23 years (if you include courtship), I have about run out of ideas for gifts and cards. But I find I always come up with something. And the search for gifts for Karen makes me happy, too.

This year, the gift is small, but pretty. And, of course, there are flowers. I traditionally place a call to Givens Flowers, in Georgetown, to order roses delivered to Karen at work. I've gotten used to the same woman who answers the phone there and who has always given me great service. This year, the message I asked for for the card included the fact of 21 years of marriage.

“Keep up the good work,” she said. “My husband and I just celebrated 50 years.”

When we married, Father Tom, who performed the ceremony, told us to try to surprise each other with something each day of our marriage – even if it is just a rock. We've done that. In fact, we have a tradition of keeping an eye out for heart-shaped pebbles on the beach – we spend a lot of time on the beach. We have several glass jars on our mantle in which we've collected years worth of pebbles – heart shaped, perfectly oval, or just interesting.

So I'll keep trying to be a loving husband. My parents have been together for more than 50 years, and so have Karen's parents. I hope to offer a 50th anniversary blog post -- or whatever the equivalent may be in the year 2038.

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Speaking of Presidential Word-Clouds...

After yesterday's discussion of word clouds related to the "back to school" speech by President Obama, I was referenced in a tweet by jamesparks101 who invited me to check out a wordle project he (I think) completed in August. He has created word clouds of every one of the 56 inaugural addresses from US history.

I've posted the word-cloud from William Henry Harrison's marathon inaugural in 1841, above-right. It is the longest inaugural address in history and Harrison made it hat-less and coat-less on a cold, wet, March day. After two hours speaking (yikes) he attended several inaugural balls. He caught a cold; the cold lingered, became pneumonia, and led to Harrison's death on April 4, 1841.

I find this interesting, though I do have to point out that jamesparks101 is being something of a pain by tweeting the same thing, over and over, apparently to anyone who sends a tweet making reference to word-clouds:
...take a look at this wordle project retweet if worthy.
I'll not re-tweet, but thought it worth a mention here.

Monday, September 7, 2009

An Anniversary

This blog -- Mike's Musings -- turned 5 years old yesterday. I almost missed the date; I'm more focused on Karen and my 21st anniversary coming up on Thursday.

I've made 1,100 posts since I started this thing with a "had to start somewhere" post on September 6, 2004. Based only on the labels I've given to posts over the years -- and labeling didn't become available until after I'd started -- most posts have had to do with Delaware, culture, photography, politics, blogging, history, golf, vacation, family, and travel. That seems to match my interests fairly, though not in that order. And music, which I'd have placed in the top ten, is at number 11.

Of course, given the limited on-line music-sharing (legal) choices, I've been less inclined to blog about it. And someone once said that blogging about music is like tweeting about architecture. Or something like that.

Looking back in a non-scientific way, I think I started out with a broader view and commented on a great many different things. I was often looking at politics. As the Delaware blogosphere has grown and matured, I found myself less and less inclined to talk politics, leaving that to the political blogs, which have had a fine run over the last few years.

I've also noted a down-turn in posting this past year. I'm not sure whether that has been due to a feeling that I've already commented on everything (and I'm too lazy to come up with new thoughts) or that it is due to the growth of LinkedIn, FaceBook and twitter and the move to posting more things using those tools.

I assume I'll find a balance and will report that back to you a year from now.

It's About "School" (Updated)

Pandora, over at DelawareLiberal has posted the text, as prepared for delivery, of the President's planned speech to students on Tuesday. I took the liberty of running it through wordle to see what the top 75 words would be.

Apparently, it's all about "School."

So much for "indoctrination."

There is an argument developing in the comments on Pandora's post that seeks to change the story about why there was an uproar. But one thing seems clear to me: It (the uproar) is pretty much just a load of crap and should be ignored. The problem I see is that uproar appears to be the preferred mode of public discourse these days.

It's a shame, really.

UPDATE: DelawareDem was kind enough to add a link to this post in another post on the subject on DelawareLiberal (turn-about=fair play?). The argument that ensued led me to try to do exactly the same wordle word cloud of a Ronald Reagan speech to students when he was president, back in 1988:

Please forgive the line on the left. I did a less accurate job with teh screen capture. It looks, from this, like Mr. Reagan's topic was a bit more political than Mr. Obama's.

Another Log From History

I'm not sure how it ended up on-line, but there's a fascinating short-entry log by a B-17 navigator in World War II posted as a PDF file.

The log covers 1943 and 1944. The writer is stationed in England and taking part in missions over Holland, France and Germany. It runs from the flight crew's journey to England and includes more than 20 missions before the narrator's B-17 is shot down over Holland.

The log ends with a recollection, written later, of the navigator's experiences "escaping and evading" in Holland and France after he bailed-out of the crippled B-17.

I found this fascinating, both as a student of history (mostly I enjoy the stories from history rather than catalogs of fact) and as the nephew of a B-17 navigator. My Uncle, Robert Farrar, was a navigator on B-17s in World War II. He never told us much about his wartime experience. If the scenes described here are some of what Robert saw during his tour of duty, then I guess I'm not surprised.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Nineteenth Golf Game of 2009

Andy and I played 18 holes at The Rookery, near Milton, on Saturday afternoon. We played with two fellows from the DC area who have places in Rehoboth and Lewes and were thinking about retiring here. They had lots of questions about living here.

I tend to consider The Rookery my "home course," but looking back over the past year I see that this has only been my second round there in 2009. That's a shame, it's a challenging course and very well cared-for.

I did not come close to my goal of breaking 100. I had four bad "blow-up" holes that pretty much crushed my round. I can think of specific shots and how they went wrong -- five trying to get to greens and another four or five simply poor putts.

In several cases, I let thick grass or tufts catch my club head and turn it, sending shanks off to the right. In one, I topped a shot and sent it into a pond. My follow-up, from a drop, went right and into a wetland area. My mistake there was not stopping, stepping back, and regrouping before trying again.

On the other hand, I did manage two pars on the back nine, so there's still hope.

I finished at 109, but Andy played very well and scored a 95. The photo above is where his drive landed on the par-3 ninth. He sank the putt for a birdie. And he had three pars as well.

It was a sunny day, but cool. There was a nice breeze blowing. The course was in fine shape, and it wasn't too crowded. The company was pleasant. All in all, that's not a bad way to spend an afternoon.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Me? I'm On Section 25 Time Today!

I've taken the day off from work today, using one of five new days off that we Delaware state employees got with our 2.5 percent pay cut for fiscal year 2010 (which started in July).

Delaware's new governor, Jack Markell, was faced with an historically large projected budget deficit when he took office in January. He had to make some tough calls, including a proposed 8 percent pay cut for state workers and several other less public, but tough, belt-tighteners.

When you add in teachers, state workers are one of the largest voting blocks in the state. and they were not, as a group, very happy with the projected pay cut. I was not pleased, but working close to the budget as I do I also realized that some cuts were required.

The state workers' anger made the legislators nervous. They cut the pay cut back to 2.5 percent and they insisted on giving us something back for the pay we gave up. They came up with the idea of 5 extra days off.

These are not "furlough days," since we're getting paid for them. And they are not really vacation days, because they can't be banked and carried over to the next fiscal year. So what to call them?

As a good bureaucracy, we ended up calling them "Section 25 Days" because they are established in Section 25 of the budget bill.

None of us could take these days until very recently, though, because the legislation is complex. No one can take Section 25 time, for example, if it would cause someone else to have to be paid for overtime. Agencies had to work out how their workers would use the time and have those plans approved by the Office of Management and Budget.

Section 25 days are very special, complicated and much-discussed around the proverbial water cooler.

I am working now to add "Section 25" to state worker slang as a term for breaks taken for no apparent reason.

For example:
"Where's Johnny? He's supposed to be ramble-framping the sturggelblix."

"Oh, he's taking a nap in the parking lot. He's on a Section 25."
It might catch on.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Eighteenth Golf Game of 2009

Andy and I played eighteen holes at Ocean Resorts in Ocean Pines today. I had a simply awful round. I was not hitting the ball well.

I won't use it as an excuse, but the course was in poor shape. It was wet, very wet after a heavy downpour overnight. The wet kept the ground crew from mowing the course at all, so things were long and slow.

My biggest error was not staying in the fairway. The rough was largely thick-grown crabgrass. I couldn't get an iron through that stuff at all and so was not hitting with any distance from the rough. I didn't putt well wither. I finished at 114.

Andy, on the other hand, played very well, particularly on the back 9. He carded a 94 after pars on 4, 8, 17 and 18 and a birdie on 15.

I had just enough good shots to make me eager to get back out and get some revenge on the golf course and on the golf gods.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Going to the Candidates Debate

I went down to the Lewes Presbyterian Church this evening for a debate between the two candidates running in the special election to fill the 37th representative district seat. They are (from left to right) Rob Robinson, Democrat, and Ruth Briggs King, Republican.

I live-tweeted it, though that was a little painful just using my cell phone. Democratic Party twitterer DelDems was also tweeting; I'm guessing DelDems had a better keyboard than I, or maybe more nimble thumbs.

I've tried to use Twitter's advanced search option to create links to just our tweet streams from this evening. It mostly worked... You will have to read from the bottom up. Please pardon my typos.

I came in leaning towards Rob Robinson. I know him a little bit, and I tend to vote Democratic. It is also the case that a friend of mine serves with Robinson on the Georgetown Planning Commission and speaks very highly of him as a worker and as a leader. And Robinson has appeared in court before another friend, who says he is a good lawyer.

Robinson did well tonight. He was comfortable and charming. He was polite, but firm when he needed to be. He showed independence and a thoughtful approach. He has my vote.

Ruth Briggs King wasn't terrible, but I wasn't very impressed. I thought she contradicted herself at times and that she was trying to get in a few digs at Robinson without being obvious. I didn't like that.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Seventeenth Golf Game of 2009

It hardly merits its own post, but obsessive compulsive blogging is nothing if you skimp on the obsession or the compulsion, so let me briefly tell you about 9 holes at the Heritage Inn and Golf Club, at Midway.

Andy and I wanted to play on Sunday morning and thought we'd go back to the Heritage course, largely because of its play-all-day for $10 pricing. That's very tempting, but sometimes you do get just what you pay for.

Andy got me started playing golf. I had taken some indoor lessons as a gym class at Colby College, up in Maine, some 25 years ago, but it wasn't until a few years back that I picked it up as a steady thing. And when I started, we mostly played the Heritage, at that time an executive-length 9-holes with a few long par-4 holes and a respectably challenging par-5. It cost a bit more to play then than it does now, but was still low-priced.

Since then, they've chopped up the back third of the property and built town houses, drastically shortening many of the holes. They closed the pro shop; you pay your ten bucks in the hotel lobby. As Andy noted, at this point they basically just keep it mowed. More or less.

So it's in poor shape and our play seemed to reflect the state of the course. We had a few good holes, but neither of us was particularly proud. And it was quite hot. So after nine holes we broke for lunch. After we'd eaten, we decided we'd gotten ten dollars worth of "golf" and called it a day.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Historic Geospatial Data

Two hundred years ago today, John Quincy Adams (a future US President) was on a ship called The Horace, captained by Benjamin Beckford, outward bound from Charlestown, just north of Boston in Massachusetts, to St. Petersburg in Russia. There was a heavy swell and a "gale of wind" out of the west-northwest.

Mr. Adams, who was sailing to Russia to serve as President James Madison's minister plenipotentiary to that nation, spent his time that day reading about Timoleon and Paulus Aemilius (in Plutarch, I think), according to his personal one-line-a-day log.

He gave the ship's position as 52 degrees, 46 minutes north latitude and 34 degrees, 30 minutes west longitude, which put them almost exactly halfway between Newfoundland and Ireland, in the north Atlantic.

Now, two centuries later, the folks at the Massachusetts Historical Society have started a project to publish Adams' log in the closest thing to a modern "line-a-day" log -- twitter. They've begun posting each day's entry to a John Quincy Adams twitter account: JQAdams_MHS.

View John Quincy Adams in a larger map

And they have geo-published those entries, using Adams' recording of the ship's position. Now we have both a regular text update of Adams' days, and we have a daily chart showing his location and basic log entries.

That is in addition to his full diaries from the journey, which are also available, and which contain more detail and thoughts. In fact, the Massachusetts Historical Society has 51 volumes of diaries that President Adams kept throughout his life; he was one of those diarists who left a rich legacy for historians and biographers.

Of course I could draw the comparison between the 19th centuries diarists and 21st century bloggers. But I think that, more than any one technique or technology, it is the practice of daily recording of data, location, thoughts, and activities, that is of value here.

Not every diarist or blogger who writes down their thoughts each day will turn out to be a leader that future generations will want to study. But we do hope that every leader will keep such a record for the future. And we don't know ahead of time who those folks will be. So, it is, I think, a good thing to have at least some part of the population in the habit, just in case one of them turns out to be someone special some day.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Bi-Coastal Reflections

A Californian photo-a-day blogger is vacationing in South Bethany, a few miles down the coast from us here in Lewes. He's posted a very nice photo of a sunrise over the Atlantic (Sunset in Reverse - South Bethany beach, Delaware), with commentary about how odd it is to see the sun come up over the ocean, as opposed to watching it go down.
This is my very first East Coast sunrise at a beach - a thrilling experience to see the sun coming up from the ocean and not at all too early to see (6:13 am). I wonder if there is a green flash right before the sun comes up.
It reminded me of my feelings watching sunsets in Hawaii, and thinking it odd that the sun should disappear into the water like that.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Sixteenth Golf Game of 2009

I took the afternoon off today and met my friend and colleague Sandy Schenck for a round of golf at Old Landing Golf Course.

It was a hot afternoon, but there was a steady breeze to cool us off as well as drifting almost-thunder-heads to cut the sun's heat. Old Landing is also well shaded with trees, so we were fairly comfortable.

The course was in tolerable shape, though the greens had just been sprayed with some sort of pesticide with a strong green hue. It caused grubs to flee to the surface where the local crows were having a feeding frenzy. The grubs themselves, and the holes dug by the crows looking for more, made putting a bit of a challenge on some of the greens.

I started poorly, but settled down somewhat over the first nine and finished with a nice par 3 on the 9th hole for a total of 54.

The second nine holes were a bit better. I scored another par on the 15th and managed a 51 to finish the round at 105.

I find it interesting that I've carded my personal best in two games in a row now.

Sandy played well, he broke 100 with a 99; it included an impressive birdie on the 15th.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A Year's Worth of Automotive Data

I took delivery of my little blue Scion last year on July 23. As I have noted before, I am geek-obsessive over data on this car.

FuellyI have been tracking fill-ups and miles at Fuelly, the social network for gas-mileage freaks, and on a Google documents spreadsheet. The Fuelly badge, at right, reflects the long-term average MPG. The table below is my one-year summary, based on the data in my Google spreadsheet.

During the year between delivery on July 23, 2008 and my fill-up on July 24, 2009, I drove a total of 15,827.3 miles. I had 53 fill-ups and averaged 298.63 miles per fill-up. I used 491.67 gallons of gas, an average of 9.28 gallons per fill up. That gas cost me $1,639.62, averaging $30.94 per tank. Over the year, I averaged 32.19 miles per gallon.

Aside form all that data, the little blue scion is a fun little car. It is sporty enough for this old dude, comfortable, and I think practical.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Fifteenth Golf Game of 2009

Just over a week ago, I went out for 18 holes with Andy and Rich at Ocean Resorts Golf Club down in Maryland. This was just a few days after we returned from vacation. But I've been playing vacation blog-post catch-up for so long now I didn't get around to documenting this particular outing until now.

Ocean Resorts is a nice low-cost course in decent shape. It has challenges and fun holes. Andy and I have been there a few times, Most recently back in early July.

I started out badly, but settled down to a so-so front nine. I did better on the back nine managing to par the two par 5 holes on that part of the course. I finished with a 105, which I think ties my personal best. So far.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Sun Sets on Our Hawaiian Adventure

We finished our vacation with a sunset sail on a catamaran sailing from Anaehoomalu Bay. We had a perfect sunset, just enough clouds to make it interesting, but a clear horizon line for the sun to sink through.

The boat, the Sea Smoke, was formerly a speed-sailing catamaran owned by James Arness of the TV show Gunsmoke. It has been reconfigured for whale-watching, snorkel cruises, and sunset cruises. It had a crew of four, Shane at the helm and three others hoisting sales, handing out drinks, popping champagne corks and generally acting the gracious hosts.

Heading out, we had great views of Mauna Kea, including a segment of rainbow. As we got further out, we could see Maui in the distance, surrounded by clouds.

We ate, drank, chatted and enjoyed the ocean air. Shane took my picture at the helm, and we had a family picture taken at the rail.

And then the sun hit the horizon and, 180 seconds later, it was gone. The crew had popped champagne; we toasted the sky and headed back to shore.

We were watching carefully for the green flash. I didn't see it, but Christina thinks she did, just as the last of the sun went down.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Visit to a Volcano

We got up early one morning and made the long drive around the Big Island to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

We drove around the north end of the Big Island, but cut up and across the shoulder of Mauna Kea and through the small town of Waimea before heading south along the east coast to Hilo.

It was a fascinating drive -- about 100 miles around half of a large island and covering several different sorts of landscape.

The northern part of the Kona coast is arid and mostly lava that has been colonized by grasses. As you head upland, however, there's more and more moisture until you reach Waimea, which was fog bound and looked to be damp ranch country. The drive along the coast to Hilo was full-on tropical with jungle-clad, steep hills falling away onto a blue ocean.

Hilo is an older-looking town. We only brushed past it, along the waterfront, before starting up the slopes of Mauna Loa to reach the Park and the vast caldera of Kilauea.

We did not really have enough time to properly explore the park. I had planned to drive the Crater Rim drive around the Caldera but about half was closed due to sulphur-laden gases venting out of the Halema'uma'u crater that dominates the western part of the caldera. That's the great big hole with gases coming out in the photo above. It was impossible for me to capture the whole of the Caldera, it is really quite large.

We drove to the farthest-along overlook still open and then came back by way of the steaming bluffs, where cracks and crevasses leak steam from the great heat below. From there we hiked a trail part-way down into the caldera through a broken landscape that looks llike it was formed when a part of the caldera wall slumped-in. This trail became progressively more tropical as it descended, past plants we'd never seen, through rocks and past cliffs, until it rose again to a completely different sort of arid plain.

We also took some time to walk through the Thurston Lava Tube before having a light lunch at the Volcano House, an inn that sits on the edge of caldera wall.

We took the southern route back to Waikoloa, completing a circling of the Big Island. This is a slightly longer drive, but took even longer still as it slowed drastically to wind around along the south Kona coast. This route also features a long descent from Kilauea through a completely empty landscape of lava fields. I knew we were in an empty place as, one by one, the radio stations faded away and there were none.

So we made a circle around the island, which I'll admit I'd been thinking about. It was a long drive, though.

At the Beach With Honu

There's a sand beach at Waikoloa on the Big Island. It fronts Anaehoomalu Bay and includes an open stretch of sand, portions shaded by palms, and a series of sandy coves separated by small volcanic rock peninsulas; some filled to the waterline by complex trees.

We spent a quiet afternoon swimming and sunning. At one point, we took a walk away from the populated part of the beach and came upon a group of green sea turtles -- Honu in Hawaiian -- sunning themselves on a shelf of volcanic pebbles hidden behind a lava peninsula.

We didn't want to disturb them, so we kept back a respectful distance and just snapped a few pictures.

There were also several turtles hanging around in the lagoon at the Hilton where we stayed. Several times, we took kayaks out and visited them. There's nothing better than drifting quietly while watching one of these lovely animals flying around beneath you.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Fourteenth Golf Game of 2009

Well, of course I played golf while we were in Hawaii.

I played the beach course at Waikoloa one morning with an older gent and his son-in-law. They were from California. The starter matched me with them. It was that or play with a trio of Japanese tourists and I don't think they had any English.

It's a challenging course. The holes are surrounded by mounds and hillocks of lava. There are lava traps in place of sand traps. If you're not hitting over water, you are hitting over fields of broken volcanic rock. I was wondering what happens if you hit one into that lava.

I had a pretty good round, all things -- rented clubs, playing in sneakers, etc. -- considered. I finished with a 109. My play was up and down. I had a par on the sixth, for example, but followed that with a triple bogey on the a par-5 seventh.

The seventh was also where I learned what happens when you hit it into the lava field. I had had a good drive and second shot and had just a 9-iron shot left to the green. Instead of hitting it clean and getting on in regulation, I hit it low and slicing into the lava on the right. It bounced almost back to where I was standing but on the other side of the fairway. I was lucky to make an eight.

On the other hand, the scenery is great. On some holes you are looking at a mountain. On others, you overlook the Pacific Ocean. The sun is bright, the foliage is rich and green, and the trade winds blow steadily and keep you a bit cool.

I liked it.